The economics of halal

Parents in the UK recently discovered that their kids' schools have been serving 'halal' only lunches . In Antwerp a recent decision has been made to make sure all food served during school trips is 'halal'. In the Netherlands the supermarket chain Albert Heijn has set up halal food stands, which were supposed to serve the Muslim public. But then a whole to-do erupted over whether the store was selling halal food even in its regular stands.

Most articles I've read focus on the issue of forcing people to eat something they might prefer not to. Giving only halal food might be considered multi-cultural but it's actually an example of uni-culturalism. Only one culture is being cared for and that is the Muslim minority one.

But what other effects are there in forcing entire populations to eat halal food?

Well, for one, it ensures a continuing demand for halal slaughter, whether local or imported.

I ran across a report from Australia explaining that Australia imports meat to Muslim countries and therefore having local halal slaughter-houses is a major advantage. ( Business Case Study: Australia's Halal Food Industry, PDF).

I do not know whether Belgium and the UK have the same issues. The demand for exported halal food might be so great as to make any local demand insignificant, or it might not.

Do these countries have enough slaughterers to cover the demand? Do they have enough slaughterers to cover the fake demand caused by forcing non-Muslims to eat food they would otherwise not consume? If yes, where do they come from?

Another issue is the regularization of halal food. By having school systems and local governments enforce halal food, the issue is brought up from the personal sphere into the bureaucratic one. That is already the case once a school offers a choice, which has been the case in many places for a while, but what has been a community issue will now become a local gov't issue. Who decides what is halal food? How long would it take before there's an official certifying body? Does a slaughterer need any training and if so, who supplies it?

There are various levels of halal food, and it all depends on the level of observance and demand of those who choose to eat it. Who decides what type of halal food is given in schools? In Antwerp the schools decided to move to halal only so as to guarantee the Muslim parents that nobody would give their kid non-halal food by chance. But why stop at school trips? And why cater to the most extreme demands?

As a side note - a religious Jew will not trust a public school to offer kosher food as somebody who does not know what is allowed and what isn't allowed according to Jewish law might make serious mistakes, but they will not make demands either. They will either provide their kid with a packed lunch, or will send their kid to a religious Jewish school.

Halal food is a Muslim industry. By ensuring there is a large scale demand for halal food and by making sure there's a regulatory process dealing with the religious issues surrounding it, the countries which enforce halal food on their residents are also ensuring continued observance, to the highest standards.


Snouck said...

Providing supervision over food preparation provides Muslim clerics with a source of income. Why should non-Muslims pay for mantaining the cadre of those who are often hostile to them?

Westerners are being forced to finance their own disenfranchisement.

Anonymous said...

My view is that as long as it is clearly identified, I have no problem with halal meat being available in public institutions. Indeed, given that Christian and secular persons are not instructed to avoid halal meet, the policy as described for the halal school trips appears perfectly rational.

As a confession--I am Jewish and while I don't keep kosher, I also scrupulously avoid pork.

That much being said, I generally follow the issues discussed here keenly--and think that energy is best focused on other issues than on accommodating individuals dietary restriction. An undue focus on such things creates an unproductively vindictive atmosphere.

Anonymous said...

Halal & kosher meat should be against the law in the UK. The reason they are not is that an exception to the law has been made to allow kosher & halal meat. This is undemocratic. Democratic laws are there and should apply to everybody.
If the powers that be think it is not cruel to kill animals by slitting their throat and letting them bleed to death then everyone should be allowed to kill animals that way.
If they think it is cruel and should be banned then everyone should be bn banned from killing animals that way.